On December 2, 2008, the European Commission announced the launch of a new European Union prize for modern literature. “The aim is to put the spotlight on the creativity and diverse wealth of Europe’s contemporary literature, to promote more circulation of literature within Europe and encourage greater interest in non-national literary works.” The first edition of the prize will be awarded in autumn 2009.
According to European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Mr. Ján Figel’, “Books are an essential part of our history and the intellectual heritage of Europe. They reflect the particularity and the diversity of cultures as well as their common origins, and they promote intercultural dialogue. I welcome this new European Union prize, as it will help publicize and promote Europe’s richness and cultural diversity. The fact that it will be awarded for the first time in 2009 is excellent timing, since 2009 is designated as the European Year of Creativity and Innovation.”
A consortium comprising the European Booksellers Federation, the European Writers' Congress and the Federation of European Publishers are organizing the selection process and award ceremony.
According to the European Commission, the European Prize for contemporary literature will consist of a prize for emerging talents in the field of contemporary literature (fiction) from each of the participating countries in 2009, 2010, and 2011 respectively. “The aim of the prize is to attract a wide audience of European citizens, to discover new emerging talents and promote their work, especially in countries outside their own. The prize will be a starting point for intercultural dialogue and a way to bring together cultural actors from the book sector from across Europe.”
The EC adds that there will also be an award to a well-known European personality in literature to take on the role of “European Ambassador of Literature” for a one-year period.
According to the press release, the prize is financed through the Culture Program of the European Union. “The program supports transnational cultural cooperation projects involving operators from a minimum of three different countries participating in the program. It also provides specific support for the translation of literary works and is open to all cultural sectors except audiovisual, for which a separate program exists.”
The European Commission website provides more information on the prize for modern literature in the European Union.